Curtain Up For Beauty and the Beast

The Nine O’Clock Players perform classic fairytale Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Martin Cohen Photography.

Recently, I had the privilege to see the Nine O’Clock Players, a nonprofit that has existed for 80 years and offers live theater for kids and schools who may not have the money to buy expensive play tickets.

Every school year, they stage two productions based on favorite children’s books.

When I arrived at their playhouse in Hollywood, I saw a little cottage-like building that looked very welcoming. When I walked in, it was just as cute on the inside. I walked into a courtyard that led to a majestic theater with rows and rows of excited, laughing children.

We were shown to our seats and the play started shortly after. We didn’t know what play it was but as soon as the narrator started singing “A Tale as Old as Time,” I knew. In a little over an hour, a talented group of actors and singers retold the popular story of Beauty and the Beast.

The play was entertaining from beginning to end and the performers were filled with energy. I loved that it was an all-female cast even though some of them played male characters.

The costumes and set were also impressive. On the stage’s edges, there was a castle on one side and a small townhouse on the other. Then, in the middle of the stage, there was a giant Lazy Susan, which is a large rotating wheel. One half was the Beast’s house and the other half was Beauty’s. Whenever they wanted to switch locations, they would just spin it around and there would be a completely new set.

There was also live music. If you were sitting close enough, you could see in the front that there was a man playing piano, which was really cool because it made the live experience more magical.

Another standout was how the characters interacted with the audience. More than once, actors ran down the aisles of the theater, which made the kids giggle hysterically. And once they even asked a question to the audience. I enjoyed it a lot and based on the laughter I heard from the crowd, I think everyone else did too.

If you are looking for an inexpensive way to enjoy the theater with kids, Nine O’Clock Players is it. And if you’re a student like me—or a parent—who is involved with Los Angeles public schools, you know that arts programs have been severely cut, which makes groups like the Nine O’Clock Players so important.

I spoke with Los Feliz resident, Jenny Brandt, who played Beauty’s sister in the current production.

She said, “My favorite part about performing for kids is hearing their reactions from the stage. The laughter, the gasps of surprise, the clapping along to the songs … kids are the best audience we could ask for.”

Jenny also said: “There’s nothing like live theater to bring a story to life. Theater sparks kids’ curiosity and imaginations.”

As a kid, I completely agree!

During the week, 12,000 low-income and special-needs children enjoy theater through Nine O’Clock Players free of charge. On weekends, the public can purchase tickets. Contact the box office at (323) 545-6153 for more information or visit NineOClockPlayers.com.

Amalia Mauceri is a 6th grader at Thomas Starr King Middle School.

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